Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Blues: Is there such thing as a Game 7 edge?

Blackhawks-Blues: Is there such thing as a Game 7 edge?

ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks have played a few of these Game 7s in the past.

In every case over the past five years they forced the Game 7, winning late in a series to erase a deficit. They’ve had momentum entering each one. And on Sunday, prior to departing for St. Louis, the Blackhawks liked where they were entering this Game 7, too.

“Well, I think we wanted to get ourselves in this spot,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We put ourselves in an awful spot a little while ago. [Now] we put ourselves exactly where we want to be. We’ve got momentum; we’ve got to be excited about this challenge.”

There’s never a doubt about the excitement level. Hockey Game 7s just bring that out of every team, whether it’s the one that had the series lead or not. But does the team entering with momentum have the Game 7 edge, especially if that team has several players who have been through this before? Or with the series squared and with both squads facing elimination, is there such thing as having an edge?

“I think it helps to be there and have that experience,” said Marian Hossa, who’s played in six Game 7s since the 2008-09 season. “But again [it’s] starting 0-0, so it could go either way. Maybe in certain times you can use that experience.”

The Blackhawks certainly have been here before, playing in four previous Game 7s under Quenneville. They lost in overtime in Vancouver in the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals, beat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime in the 2013 conference semifinals, fell to Los Angeles in overtime of the 2014 conference final and beat Anaheim in last year’s conference final.

So it’s been mixed results. Outside of last year’s game against the Ducks, in which the Blackhawks built a big lead early, every game has been tightly contested. The Blackhawks expect the same close game tomorrow against the Blues.

The Blackhawks came back from a 3-1 hole in this series to force Game 7. They have enough guys on this team who know winning Game 7s means playing the right way, keeping calm in anxious situations and getting something from everyone.

Having one other element doesn’t hurt, either.

“I think you have to have mental toughness,” Duncan Keith said. “I mean, I don’t think we really analyze things too much or try to measure certain things. But we’re just out there playing and we know that when we’re down 3-1 we’re in a situation where we’ve got nothing to lose. We were down 3-1 and we found a way to do it in Game 5, and then last night I thought we played a good game and had a lot of composure being down 3-1 in the game at one point. So it’s just kind of sticking with it.”

The Blackhawks clawed their way back into this first-round series. The Blues have been a formidable opponent, and they’ll be hungry to dispatch their division foe on their home ice. Can the Blackhawks eke out one more? They’ve been here, done this before, and they’re looking to do it again.

“We put ourselves in a tremendous spot. Have fun with it, play the way we did the last couple of games,” Quenneville said. “We keep getting better, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

dominik_kahun_ap.jpg
AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

marian_hossa_ap.jpg
AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.